What I learned - 2021

It gets worse, but then it gets better.

Last year was a no good very bad year. If there's one thing I learned in 2021 it's this: it gets better.

Yes, we kicked off the year with an insurrection in the Capitol. Yes, we relived the COVID-19 nightmare with the Delta variant. But it did get better.

One bright spot was that vaccines were developed and distributed faster than ever in history. I was able see my family and friends after nearly a year. I was able to move around with more confidence since I was vaccinated. It didn't all "go back to normal", but it certainly felt better than last year.

Another boon was remote work. The biggest lessons I learned in 2021 involved remote work.

We underestimate the impact of remote work

Remote work is not a trend, but fast becoming the new normal. The majority of job postings in tech circles are now remote rather than onsite.

It's expected that employers will provide remote work options permanently. Two-thirds of those working remotely due to the pandemic want to continue to work remotely. In fact, half of Millennials and Gen Z would consider quitting if employers don't allow remote work. Workers are even willing to take a pay cut to remain remote.

The rise of remote work is particularly important because the most valuable segment of the market is shifting first: well-paid knowledge workers at technology companies. Remote jobs rose to nearly 15 percent of all high-paying job listings in Q3 2021, up from 4% in 2019.

And there is plenty of room for growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 45% of jobs can be done remotely (current take up rate is 10%). More as technology and high-speed internet access improves.

It's hard to imagine all the ways remote work will change the economy and culture.

Writing is the most important skill to develop

If someone asked me a few years ago, the most important thing to do to further their career, I would have said learn to code. If asked today I would say learn to write.

Nearly all of our communication these days comes in the form of writing. Messaging, email, and the almighty memo are now the backbone of collaboration. I found that organizations that thrived during the shift to remote work already had a strong writing culture.

The return to writing is a good thing. Writing is thinking and the more clearly we write, the more clearly we think. Turns out, books about writing are good tools for improving your thinking.

As I wrote more in a professional capacity, I realized how sloppy my thinking was and how easy it is to fool myself. It's so obvious because, writing is like getting naked in public.

(Side note: Emacs makes for a decent focused writing environment. After all, Emacs is the ultimate editor building material).

Home working

Working from home isn't just about work. To do it long term we need to keep fit, both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, 89 percent of employees said they experienced occupational burnout in the past year. I suspect this is a combination of COVID-19 related stress and companies figuring out remote work on-the-fly.

The two things that helped me the most this year were exercising on the Peloton and writing in the morning. Doing both of these things every day helped to more distinctly separate home from work, maintain my mental resilience, and accomplish personal goals.

New opportunities

This year I left Stripe after 4.5 years and returned to being a startup founder. What am I working on? You can probably guess—it's about helping employers go remote.

There are just so many problems that need to be solved when you start from the vantage point that most work will be done remotely in the next decade.

More on this soon!

Update: I announced it

Wrapping up

While the year had it's ups and downs, I feel optimistic.

There is genuine progress happening all around us and it is getting better.